DE­SIGN TRENDS

De­sign guru Glynn Kerr on the dif­fi­cult times be­ing faced by Mo­tus Mo­tor­cy­cles of the United States of Amer­ica

Bike India - - CONTENTS -

Un­less you have a wealthy spon­sor the size of, say, Po­laris, start­ing a new mo­tor­cy­cle com­pany in this day and age is no easy task. this is an in­dus­try which, like the myth­i­cal sirens, draws in de­voted en­trepreneurs only to dash them on the rocks of in­sol­vency a few years down the line. ours can be a par­tic­u­larly cruel busi­ness to be in and no­body does it to get rich quickly. en­thu­si­asm is usu­ally the cen­tral mo­tive, which doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily gel with fis­cal pru­dence.

Mo­tus is one com­pany that de­served to suc­ceed, be­cause they did some­thing dif­fer­ent. not wacky, Con­fed­er­ate-style dif­fer­ent, which might work if you sell in sin­gle dig­its, but main­stream dif­fer­ent in a coun­try where most cus­tomers are con­ser­va­tive pa­tri­ots who only buy v-twins and from brands that were around be­fore the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence. sure, the v4 lay­out had al­ready ap­peared on honda’s st1100 and 1300 mod­els, but the in­clined block was unique and chain drive kept things sporty, even if it meant turn­ing the crank ro­ta­tion through 90 de­grees for the fi­nal drive. with 165 Ps (Mst) or 180 Ps (Mst R) on tap, power was more than suf­fi­cient to turn that ex­tra cog, although at 230 kg dry, the Mo­tus was no light­weight. the de­sign was un­der­stated, if rather bland, with the aim of at­tract­ing the more ma­ture, se­ri­ous rider.

It is a huge un­der­tak­ing for a start-up to pro­duce its own en­gine and theirs is no two-stroke sin­gle. tech­ni­cal expertise was called in from Pratt & Miller en­gi­neer­ing, rac­ing part­ner to no less than Gen­eral Mo­tors, the pushrod v4 “Baby Block” lay­out be­ing based heav­ily on a short­ened Corvette ls unit. Prices weren’t cheap, with Mo­tus quot­ing MsRP at $30,965 (Rs 22 lakh) for the Mst and $36,975 (Rs 26 lakh) for the Mst R, although that in­cluded plenty of high-end com­po­nents.

the use of the past tense in those last two para­graphs is be­cause, at the time of writ­ing, pro­duc­tion in Birm­ing­ham, alabama, has been halted. on 31 au­gust, founders lee Conn and Brian Case posted the fol­low­ing on the com­pany Face­book page:

To all Mo­tus cus­tomers, deal­ers, staff, sup­pli­ers, friends, Af­ter an amaz­ing ten year ride, Mo­tus is forced to shut down aper­a­tions, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately.

This week, Mo­tus’ fi­nan­cial back­ers un­ex­pect­edly in­formed man­age­ment that they would not pro­vide suf­fi­cient cap­i­tal to

main­tain op­er­a­tions and grow the busi­ness. We were sur­prised and dis­ap­pointed, es­pe­cially be­cause we have been work­ing so hard pre­par­ing an Oc­to­ber 2018 prod­uct launch into a new and ex­cit­ing seg­ment as well as new fea­tures on the MST se­ries. This is very un­for­tu­nate tim­ing and we will work to quickly find a new path for­ward for Mo­tus Mo­tor­cy­cles and our Amer­i­can V4 pow­er­train divi­sion.

this news has come as a sur­prise to own­ers and in­dus­try fol­low­ers alike, as the com­pany was build­ing a small but loyal fol­low­ing and had fur­ther mod­els in the pipe­line. the “new prod­uct” re­ferred to in the an­nounce­ment is be­lieved to be a street­fighter ver­sion, which would have opened the com­pany to new mar­kets and gen­er­ated a more ag­gres­sive im­age.

the ex­ist­ing fully faired mod­els have been crit­i­cized for lack­ing per­son­al­ity, in par­tic­u­lar a weak and anony­mous “face”. as such, it be­came one of the con­tenders for a Pho­to­shop re­work­ing in the sec­ond part of my ar­ti­cle, “nips and tucks” (Bike In­dia, au­gust 2016). not that this was in­tended as a com­plete re­design — that would have looked very dif­fer­ent — but more an up­date in the orig­i­nal spirit. My time was lim­ited to a few hours, too, not the months or years it took to come up with the orig­i­nal. the body­work was tight­ened up a lit­tle, the face and stance made more as­sertive, and the ex­haust given more flow. noth­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary, but it sharp­ened up the look a tad and brought the de­sign for­ward a few years in the process.

Right now, the man­age­ment is fo­cused on find­ing new in­vestors and hope is not lost en­tirely that pro­duc­tion could re­sume. Do­ing so is eas­ier said than done, though, as Case notes ‘... to all our loyal friends, fam­ily, deal­ers, sup­pli­ers, who, out of noth­ing but kind­ness, say “call leno” or “insert fa­mous celebrity”, it doesn’t work like that. no celebrity is go­ing to “save” a lit­tle brand like us. this isn’t a movie or even re­al­ity tv. we don’t get a hand­out or govern­ment grants. we have to save our­selves or die try­ing. we owe it not just to our­selves, but to ev­ery­one who took a chance on us and has stuck by us through a very dif­fi­cult time.’

Maybe, ex­pan­sion out­side the mo­tor­cy­cle mar­ket could help at­tract new in­vestors. the Mo­tus en­gine was also avail­able as a crate unit for cus­tom builds and other ap­pli­ca­tions. one has al­ready found its way on to a speed­boat as an out­board mo­tor, so there may be pos­si­bil­i­ties in other fields. ei­ther way, I join the many Mo­tus fans who have ex­pressed sup­port for the com­pany and hope they find a way to stay in busi­ness. a lot of pluck has gone into get­ting where they are, not to men­tion time, in­vest­ment, and sheer hard work. to keep the amer­i­can mo­tor­cy­cle in­dus­try alive for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, it shouldn’t con­sist solely of nos­tal­gia ori­en­tated v-twins.

I join the many Mo­tus fans who have ex­pressed sup­port for the com­pany and hope they find a way to stay in busi­ness

De­sign doo­dle for the com­ing Mo­tus street­fighter Stock Mo­tus MST Stock Mo­tus MST

Above: A few naked Mo­tus ex­am­ples have been posted as teasers for the street­fighterAbove Left: Mo­tus MST given the Glynn Kerr treat­ment

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